What Exactly Is Dusty Bourbon?

Bourbon is an all-American spirit with a history that spans the back to the late 18th century. It's a regional liquor that employs local ingredients: Corn, yeast, water, and wood (used in the barrels). With such a culturally distinct identity, it's no surprise that it comes interlinked with specific jargon, too.

As a result, there are many important bourbon terms to keep track of. To navigate this world with ease, familiarize yourself with the term "the Angel's share" which refers to barreled bourbon lost to evaporation, while White Lightning is unaged white whiskey. And if you're looking to collect bottles, another unique moniker to keep a tab on is dusty bourbon.

Just as a forewarning, know that the term is subjective. As with other online concepts that originated during the mid-2000s, it's all about a passionate forum debate. Whiskey enthusiasts developed the term to describe a delicious bottle that's been lost in time, collecting the eponymous dust on a shelf for at least a decade. Unopened, it contains an alluring bourbon that's been long out of production, with a special distinct flavor. Perhaps it's a terrific lot that inspires a nostalgia to an era, or a vintage from a now shuttered distillery. Just how coveted it needs to be called dusty — well that's up to the drinker, hence the spirited conversation.

Dusty bourbons are at least decade old with unique flavor palates

Dusty bourbons often appear as excitement-inducing finds, forgotten bottles purchased at an outdated price. Perhaps they still have their decades-old price tag intact, or they're from a shuttering bar offloading their unopened whiskeys. More than solely being old, they must also contain a surprising quality that won't be readily found elsewhere. When split among enthusiasts, it's a liquor that'll provide a glimpse into a different time of bourbon production. They transport the ingredients and distillation practices of an era past.

It's enthralling, but it also means that there's incredible scarcity, so the dusty bourbon resale market is often head-turning. A bottle of highly ranked Pappy Van Winkle is already difficult to track down — but a nearly 30-year-old vintage? Expect to pay the price of a car. And at the rare bars specializing in dusty bourbon, some pours can even reach several hundred dollars. However, the beauty of the moniker is that it's not defined by its expense. Some lesser-known, often defunct distilleries still have accessible prices. And as with other rare bourbons that are worth tracking down, the magic is often found in the discovery of a new gem.